Some ‘Grown-up’ Thoughts on School

Let’s talk about school and adulthood today.

I graduated from school in 2017; about three years ago. In the three years I’ve been out of school (and in college) I have come to gradually realise how much of a bubble school really puts you in. When you’re in school, life is easy and very sorted. You have to do your homework, give all your tests and study the syllabus. There are no big surprises or plot twists, it is how it was years ago and it will continue to be the same way.

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This post is one I’ve been considering making for quite a while, as this is something I’ve been thinking for some time. I have almost made it several times, but I felt a bit greedy making this post. I already had a great school life, all 14 years if it, I had my share of it so what more do I want? This is all you get, that’s the whole deal. But this time, my Instagram followers voted for this post so, here you go. (If you too want to one of the unfortunate souls that will be blamed for my future posts, please, by all means, follow my Instagram )

In school, your worries include not being on top of your assignments, the marks you get on those assignments, who you will be sitting within the class, where you will be sitting when the break is if you can convince your teacher to give you a free period, how to sneak into the ground to play, teachers and subjects you like or dislike and other things which in hindsight, seem extremely pointless. You know, I do concede that it might have been pointless but you can’t deny it was dependable. It is a whole world that swallows you in and you don’t realise just how sheltered it has kept you till it coughs you out when you become an adult.

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I realise that as someone who is still in college I haven’t quite escaped the bubble yet and so maybe I haven’t earned the right to talk about this yet. However, since I’ve started to feel the bubble thinning, I will be talking about it and since this is a blog post you cant really stop me. (Haha) In school, you are protected from the real world. You are protected from any real worries. There is a discipline, a timetable, a uniform, most of your big moments are moments that would not matter much once you’re out of school.

In the real world, you have to worry about getting a job and building a resume and getting a house and rising higher and getting fired (Basically money) and your mom is not going to be able to stand up for you if she thinks you’re being unfairly treated. In the real world, people aren’t as nice, or as disciplined. Things don’t follow such order or schedules. There are surprises, plot twists and life takes you in completely different and unexpected directions.

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When my “real life” gets especially hard, I often find myself missing that bubble, that comfort, that sense of home that I associate with school. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to be grown up and an adult and my 10 years old self could not imagine anything better but sometimes, I miss school. I know this isn’t a universal opinion, I was lucky enough to have had a great school experience and to have loved school. I miss the biggest things in my calendar being tests and competitions and doing many things at the same time and having silly things like annual functions to look forward to. I crave the comfort of a life that is sorted; I do my homework and I study well and I get good grades and things are well. To put it simply, I miss the predictability of school.

I’ve been in three schools over my schooling and while they were certainly not all of the same standard(Major major divides here!) I miss each differently and depending on what I am nostalgic for at that moment. I have also realised that more than my individual schools, I miss the institution itself. The stability, the security. “Real life” is full of far too many surprises and twists and turns, it is like being put on a roller coaster after having ridden only a carousel before.

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Even as I say this, I realise, of course, the bubble has to be popped. I know that. I know we have to grow up and fly out, spread our wings and build our lives. It is the curse of the affliction that is being human. For the most part, I love being an adult, I love the independence and I like having control and choices and all the other delights that come with it. All I’m saying is, sometimes, just some very times, I miss the simple joys and blissful ignorance I lived in as a child. I really hope someday I will stop feeling this way but I strongly suspect that it’s a lifelong thing. Oh, the Shakespearean nature of it all, as a child I envied the grown adult’s independent life and an adult I crave a child’s sheltered one. Well played, life, well played.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Do you miss school or are you happy to have left it? Comment below with what you think about t,I’d love to hear from you!

My Love for Languages

Let’s talk about my special fondness for languages today.

Hello, welcome! Hallo, willkommen! Hola, bienvenido! Namaste, swagat hai! Bonjour, bienvenue!

Now that you are properly(and a little insanely) greeted, let’s get into it, shall we?

Ever since I can remember, I have loved stories. As a kid, I loved having my parents read me bedtime stories and when I could read myself, it was instant love. (And I no longer needed to bargain or annoy my parents into reading me a story, so it was a win-win all around) I had found my passion.No, not stories like you think, but words and in a nutshell, the English language. This passion would eventually grow to encompass not just English and not just reading.

Throughout my schooling, all 14-16 years of it, the one subject that has never wavered from my favourite subject list was English. Other subjects came and went, depending on marks, general understandability, how much I liked the teacher and so on. I studied in an English medium school so, English was everywhere for me and has been one of my strongest assets through the years, due to in part the heavy reading I have done and the amount of attention I have always paid in English. I always tried to have a great relationship with my English teachers(Even when they seemed impossible to my teenage self) because I just really really loved it so much. Just to put this in perspective, my love for it was so all-consuming I sat and read a whole children’s English dictionary for fun. (Really, just get that I was just a giant language nerd.) It is the language I think in and the one I eventually chose to write in, when I discovered a different passion of mine.

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My actual mother tongue, Hindi, was a language I struggled with for a bit majorly with writing it, speaking was very natural(obviously); it’s a completely different script, we were not exposed enough to it, writing it didn’t come to me as naturally as English did(again, probably a lack of exposure thing) and whatnot but I eventually found the beauty within it too. During 9th-10th grade my Hindi curriculum was composed of mostly heavy-duty old and new Hindi literature and classics and these two years did wonders to my vocabulary and command in the language. It was then that Hindi became enjoyable for me, I had been good at it for a few years by then but now I liked being good at it and using it. Still, not as much as English because that was my comfort zone, my proverbial home within the world of languages.

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I was 11 when I realised I had a major soft spot for languages. We had to choose a third language to study alongside Hindi and English. I took German and absolutely loved it. I loved learning new words, learning to count, trying to read, practising pronunciations, listening to people speak in German and whatnot. I just loved learning languages. Languages, I was certain, were my thing. So, I thrived learning German till 8th grade and even gave the FIT in Deutsch exam(The official exam administered by the Goethe Institut to prove proficiency in german) I ended up getting the highest marks in Speaking and missing the full score by a very little margin. I also loved my german teacher, as has already been mentioned, the teachers were an important part of the equation to me because they had all the knowledge and I wanted nay needed it.

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I consider people who know multiple languages to be extremely wise and knowledgeable and the best people all around. (Did you know Audrey Hepburn spoke 5? How cool is that?) It is my most ardent dream to know and speak as many languages as I possibly can. For now, I am somewhere on the road between bilingual and trilingual; I know, understand and speak Hindi and English extremely well and know just enough German to get by, if I absolutely had to.

I’ve realised that my love for languages stems from how I find it crazy how we humans, so different yet so similar, found a way to strings sounds and noise together to mean the same things and eventually figured out symbols and a whole way of representing it written down. I find the different alphabets and scripts and quirks so fantastic. I find the little similarities you can sometimes find in Germanic languages, Romance languages and languages like Hindi fascinating. Did you know that most languages around the world use a word with ‘M’ in it for their mothers? Like ‘mother’ in English,’mata’ in Hindi,’ mutter’ in german,’madre’ in Spanish? How bonkers is it that all these people in all these different geographically distinct places with their own thriving cultures and value systems found similar ways to describe a mother, something they all had in common?

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There is much more fascinating stuff about languages that someone far more knowledgable(or the internet) would tell you. (I am warning you though, it’s quite the rabbit hole) The reason I wanted to talk about this particular fondness of mine at this moment in time though is that I think, in tough times like these, it is more prudent than ever to realise that despite our differences, despite the different tongues we speak, the ways some of us roll our R’s or seem to be speaking in cursive(Looking at you, French) we are all at the end of the day, the same; just human beings. On that note, I wish you well and bid you farewell, in the same few languages I greeted(Read scared) you with, in the beginning.

Goodbye! Auf Wiedersehen! Adios! Alvida! Au revoir!(Did you notice the A’s everyone uses here and the H almost everyone uses in their greetings? Languages are SO incredible.)

THIS POST’S QUESTION: How many languages do you speak? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Life In The Time of Corona

Let’s talk about my life and experiences with the coronavirus pandemic today.

Let us begin at the very beginning: my birthday. I turned 21 on March 10, 2020, and my family was in the Corbett National Park, on vacation. There was not much talk of the virus there, except the sanitiser bottles provided at the reception and restaurant. It was business as usual. After all, there were 50 total cases in India, no deaths, some people had already recovered and they were only in cities, not a town like the one we were staying in. We came back to Delhi, where I go to University, and I realised that things were not okay when I saw the kind of panic and flurry of masks everywhere. New Delhi was debating locking down the city and closing all schools and colleges to stop the spread of the virus. In 2 days, my University was shut and I told my parents, who were going to Mumbai, our home, on the 16th, to take me along.

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Together, we came back on the 16th of March, armed with our masks, sanitisers, constant hand-washing and being very very careful. Less than a week after my birthday, things were so drastically different than what I could have ever imagined. I was home and have not left the house since. My University began online classes and I was, if possible, more exhausted by them than regular college. It was hard to learn through just the video because my teachers through no fault of theirs, were struggling with this new medium, the classes were published for longer hours, staring at a screen with earphones in for 8-9 hours a day was physically tiring and sitting with assignments after that made it worse. Though it was a rough time, I was busy. It made it easier to deal with things and major life changes like the whole country being on lockdown, the world suffering at the hands of the COVID-19 virus and being far from friends and loved ones.

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My semester officially ended on April 1st and finishing up all the assignments and stuff I was fully done with it by the 3rd. By this time, the country had 50 times the cases it did on my birthday, we were on a country-wide full lockdown, all flights had been completely stopped and, economy and humanity were both suffering. My college then decided to prepone our Summer Internships and think of the exams we would have ordinarily had when the situation “normalises”(So they hoped.So I hope, to this day.)It was made 4 weeks instead of 8 and was scheduled to begin from the 13th, giving me a 10-day ‘holiday’, in which I somehow had to conjure an internship in an environment where people were losing their jobs of many years. Eventually(and thankfully), I got into a company through my college and had an internship in the nick of time(Got my acceptance literally the day before we were supposed to start.)

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In my 10 day ‘break,’ I took the first day or two to chill, which was great but then I realised how the empty mind really is the devil’s workshop. I now had all the time in the world to stress and worry about the current situation, the fast-spreading disease, the people who were ill, the people who had died and the pandemic’s impact on the future, especially as someone who was supposed to find a job this year and graduate next year. All my internship plans had clearly fallen flat, and offers I was pursuing were withdrawn. It was a horrible time, mental health-wise. This is when I first began to be active with blogging again because it helped me cope and gave me something to do. I also made a bunch of mug cakes, made the viral whipped coffee(and realised I should not have coffee, ever) DIY decor things, did a good amount of housework and read some books. (You know, usual pandemic activities) I was always an introvert and would have gladly chosen to Netflix over going out to socialise pre- corona, but I was beginning to realise the value of social interaction, of my university, of being able to be surrounded by people your age.

After the break, I began my internship and my time was filled with meetings with your guide, meetings with my team, working on our project, reading and watching stuff to work on our project and other things that all come down to the project. I am about to finish with my internship and will then be occupied by writing reports on it, for my University. In these 4 weeks, however, I have watched quite a few shows with my family (like Downton Abbey and The Good Place, both of which I highly recommend), watched the news every night to hear about the current COVID cases count, began rereading the Harry Potter books(which I am documenting on my instagram so if you’re interested to join in!), had many baked goods(Thanks mom!) and wrote more blog posts than I have ever written in a month. Musings of A Whimsical Soul has never in the last 4 years(Except the very beginning where I was publishing posts ever two days like a maniac) had a twice a week posting schedule and blogging have become my escape, my recluse and my coping mechanism, yet again.

That brings us to now,2 months into lockdown, no end in sight, with 74K cases in the country, 4.28 M in the world(At the time of writing this post) and us as a world living through these extraordinary times and our new ‘normal’. Most of us have not lived through a pandemic before, the whole world has been brought to a standstill by one virus and we have all realised the value and delights of the good old ordinary life, the life I for one, so easily criticised before.

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I have to admit that I speak from a place of privilege. I am lucky enough to have a roof over my head, be able to eat and sleep and live with very little major change in my life, have an internet connection, not worry about losing my job, I am with my family, I am not at risk by the virus itself and so much more. I am highly and deeply privileged in these times and I would be remiss to not acknowledge it. My objective with this post was not to flaunt my luck but simply to tell my story, to share my highs and lows, to feel connected with all of you across the world, to pay my respects to the unfortunate loss we are facing, stand with all those who are fighting this terrible illness, to let you know that we are all in this together, even if our stories may be vastly different.

This is a much harder time for many of us, and the only thing I can say is, please help if you are privileged enough and able to, please understand what other people are going through, please be empathetic and please, be human. These are unprecedented times and it is in times like this that we realise just how fragile the world we have built is and how important it is to support each other. These are hard times, difficult times and we can only get through them together. Support local businesses and practice social distancing, if not for you and your family then do it for the essential workers risking their lives for all of us at the frontlines. Stay strong and be brave. Give yourself credit, and don’t feel the pressure to ‘hustle’ and be productive right now. That’s not to say do nothing, but we must change our definition of ‘productive’ to one that fits the new world we live in rather than the world we were in before.

Good luck, take care and stay safe!

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What is your COVID-19 story? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

De-myth-ify: Perseus and Medusa(Part Three)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, the myth of the demigod Perseus and the gorgon Medusa, today. This is the last part of a three-part series on Perseus and Medusa. If you haven’t read the previous parts, do go and read Part One and Part Two before you continue here.

Now that the story is done, let’s talk about it.

Perseus’ story is quite the rarity in Greek mythology. Heroes are usually not happy or even, you know, alive at the end of their stories. Perseus falls in love, gets to marry her, she’s not related to him, no one opposes their match, he saves his mum, settles down in his new capital, has kids and lives a long, relatively happy life. Very few heroes, if any, get that. Think of any and all heroes you can; Orpheus fails at the last minute, Achilles dies and so on. After Perseus died, he and many characters from his story were also immortalised in the night sky and were made constellations by the gods. Perseus, Andromeda, King Cephus and Queen Cassiopeia are all featured among the stars. That’s positively delightful by Ancient Greek standards.

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Oedipus’ story was clearly a tragedy, for everyone in the story. But here, the only tragic character is the apparent villain, Medusa. And hence begin my arguments to express my firm belief that Medusa was never a villain and did not deserve what happened to her. Hear me out. Medusa was born mortal and pretty, by luck. She had nothing to do with that. It was not her fault that the sea god Poseidon got tempted by her beauty. It wasn’t her fault that Poseidon and Athena had a rivalry going and thus, Poseidon decided to impregnate her in Athena’s temple to spite her. And it goes without saying that she did not deserve to be turned into an ugly monster by Athena. Neither did she deserve to die as she did or for her severed head to be used as a weapon for time immemorial.

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Medusa by Caravaggio

Some people believe that Athena turned her into a monster so no man could ever do to Medusa what Poseidon did to her. Is that fair though? Athena took away her life and eventually helped her murderer kill her. She also mounted her head on her shield after clearly ruining her life. If we look at the story from Medusa’s point of view, it’s clearly a tragedy and there are not just one but two villains: Poseidon and Athena, whose rivalry ended up ruining Medusa.

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Poseidon and Athena’s rivalry

Now that we are on the topic of the gods, this story has a lot of them being, directly and indirectly, involved in the story. Let us start at the very beginning. Zeus was capable of turning into golden sparkly rain and impregnating Danae who was imprisoned for no fault of hers, but not capable of rescuing her in the first place. He left her pregnant and trapped, alone to fend against her father who literally imprisoned her to prevent this happening. (You know, I have an idea. Let us begin a Douchebag God count. Zeus makes 1 DG.) Even when they reached Seriphus and Polydectes was after Danae, he didn’t smite him or anything and let him torture her till Perseus came back from his quest. (A Big DG move)

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Zeus by Pierre Granier

We already talked about Poseidon a bit(and enough to earn him a spot in the DG list and make it 2) so let us continue from there. Not only did he possibly rape and impregnate Medusa, but he also did it in the temple of his sworn rival, to spite her and when Medusa ended up facing the consequences of it, he did nothing and was as unbothered as can be. He also set a sea monster on a country for something as silly as a queen being vain and punished common people for no fault of theirs. (Another big DG move)

Athena we have mostly talked about, but just to refresh your memory, she made Medusa a monster for no fault of hers, she helped Perseus kill her, and she put Medusa’s head on her shield after all this, shamelessly. (And that makes 3 DGs.) Need I go on? Hermes gets a special mention because he did help Perseus on his quest with Athena, so he becomes a DG by association. And that’s 4 DGs and excellent examples of Greek gods meddling whenever is convenient for them, as opposed to, at the beginning itself to not cause the very problems that they expect heroes to fix.

This story, like Oedipus’ also began with a prophecy and here too we saw the self-fulfilling nature of prophecies. Acrisius imprisoned his daughter to prevent the prophecy from coming true and as a result, made his grandson a demigod who was trained by the very best. He escaped Argos when he heard Perseus was coming back and ended up dying because of this decision. Perhaps if he had stayed put, he would have lived longer. Perhaps if his grandson knew him all along, he wouldn’t have died at his hands. It’s a lot of if’s but that’s all they are. I know it might not have changed things, but the truth of the matter is that in this story, as well as Oedipus’, characters made choices to prevent an event that ended up making the very event they dreaded come true, in classic Greek fashion.

And with that, we come to the end of our journey with Perseus and Medusa.

Until our next Greek adventure! (Or wherever we choose to go.)

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What were your thoughts on this series on Perseus and Medusa?Which myth should I do next? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

De-myth-ify: Perseus and Medusa(Part Two)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, the myth of the demigod Perseus and the gorgon Medusa, today. This is part two of a three-part series on Perseus and Medusa.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

Let’s catch back up with our hero. Perseus has spent a few days wandering in vain on his impossible quest. Why impossible, you ask? Remember what I said about the Gorgon’s Lair that becomes relevant later? This is the later we were waiting for. No mortal knew Medusa’s location. Fortunately for Perseus, he got what few heroes were privileged enough to get before. Help from the gods themselves.

Athena(The Goddess of Wisdom and the person who turned Medusa into a gorgon) and Hermes(The God of Travellers) decided to support Perseus on his quest and told him to seek the Graeae, the sisters of the gorgons, as they were the only ones who could tell him what he needed to know to be successful. The Graeae were three grey-haired monsters who shared an eye and a tooth between them. Perseus managed to eventually track them down and steal their eye and tooth to blackmail them into divulging the information he needed. ( I know. This was as weird a sentence to write as it was to read.)

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Perseus and the Graeae, by Edward Burne-Jones

The Graeae told him how to find the Hesperide Nymphs(Nymphs who lived in the Garden of the Hesperides), from whom he could obtain objects crucial to the completion of his quest and the location of the Gorgon’s Lair. The Hesperide Nymphs were actually pretty hospitable and gave him a bag to safely hold Medusa’s severed head and more importantly, Hades'(The God of the Dead) helm of darkness which could make him invisible. They also gave him the address of the Gorgons.Zeus(His dad, if you remember and King of the Gods) gave him a curved sword to uh, decapitate Medusa, Hermes lent him his winged sandals to fly to the Gorgon’s Lair at the end of the world and Athena gave him a reflective polished shield which will go on to be the hero of Perseus’ armoury. (It is important to note that Perseus is the rare hero who had so much help. Not many were so lucky.)

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Perseus armed by Mercury and Minerva, by Paris Bordone

Now armed with his repository of godly and magical items part of the Anti-Medusa squad, Perseus headed (Read flew on his winged sandals with the helm of darkness on his head, making him invisible and terrifying to any and all birds) to the Gorgon’s Lair. When he reached their cave, he found the three sisters fast asleep. Perseus used the reflective shield as a mirror(I told you it would be the hero item) to see Medusa without directly looking into her face and you know, avoid being turned to stone and stuff. He managed to get close enough to use the curved sword to land a fatal blow on Medusa’s throat. The minute he cut off Medusa’s head, from the drops of her blood sprung the winged horse Pegasus and the Chrysaor, a giant or a winged boar. It’s believed that those two were Medusa’s children with Poseidon.

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Perseus with the head of Medusa, by Benvenuto Cellini

He put Medusa’s head in the bag and was now running to escape from her two sisters who were now awake and furious to avenge their sister. Here, being invisible and able to fly helped out a great deal, and Perseus managed to escape the angry gorgons, who eventually gave up and decided to mourn their dead sister. And with that, Medusa was dead and Perseus was off with her head to fulfil his quest.

However, Medusa’s story does not end with her death. While Perseus was flying home, he passed Ethiopia, the kingdom of King Cephus. The queen, Cassiopeia, had claimed to be more beautiful than the sea nymphs, or Nereids(As you do), so Poseidon had punished the country by flooding it and plaguing it with a sea monster. (Poseidon doesn’t look great in this story, does he?)An oracle informed the King that the ill-will on his land would cease if he sacrificed his daughter Andromeda to the monster, which he did. (I hope, reluctantly) Perseus, passing by, saw the princess chained to a rock near the sea and fell in love with her. He turned the sea monster to stone by showing it Medusa’s head and afterwards married Andromeda. (Aw look. A happy ending. And no one is married to their mom or their sibling or something.)

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Perseus and Andromeda, by Rubens

Perseus and Andromeda then headed to Seriphus where Perseus came to offer Polydectes his, “gift”, fulfilling his quest. However, when Polydectes would not tell him where his mother was, Perseus pulled out the head of Medusa and turned Polydectes and his entire court to stone, just as he learnt that Polydectes had been mistreating his mother and had thrown her in the dungeon. He freed his mother, he returned all the magical items he had been given and presented Medusa’s head to Athena, as a thank you for all her help. (I mean, she made Medusa a monster in the first place sooooo, okay I’m not saying anything) She placed it on the centre of her shield, the aegis. All seemed well. (Uh oh)

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Athena’s Aegis

Perseus, along with Danae and Andromeda decided to go to his native Argos, to make peace with his grandfather Acrisius. (Remember him?)Upon hearing this, Acrisius, still painfully aware of the Oracle’s prophecy, left Argos and went to Larisa. (This would not turn out to be a good idea)Ironically, that’s precisely where Perseus headed on his way to Argos so that he could compete in the funeral games King Teutamides held in honour of his dead father. When Perseus threw a discus, it accidentally hit an old man on the head, killing him on the spot. As you might have guessed, that old man was none other than Acrisius, his grandfather; thus, the prophecy was fulfilled. (Dun dun dun. You can’t escape prophecy in ancient Greece, you’d think they would learn.)

He consequently left Argos as he was too ashamed of the crime he had committed unintentionally and founded Mycenae as his capital, becoming the ancestor of the Perseids, including Hercules. And with that, the story of Perseus comes to an end. And a relatively happy one, from Greek hero standards. More on that next time, stay tuned.

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: This story involves many Greek Gods.How are you feeling towards them at the end? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!